Hey there! Do you consider yourself a bit of a whiskey nerd? Are you also into American history, and like to geek out over vintage advertising, graphic and industrial design? Am I just describing myself? Is this a dating profile?? Stay with me here.
I KNOW I’m not the only one around these parts who is a fan of all of the above. Even if you only have a passing interest in history, design and American whiskey, but appreciate a thoroughly researched, visually appealing page turner, you’ll very much enjoy The Art of American Whiskey: A Visual History of the Nation’s Most Storied Spirit, through 100 Iconic Labels by Noah Rothbaum.
Unlike the glut of whiskey books out there concentrating on what is inside the bottle, The Art of American Whiskey tells the story of this revered spirit by focusing on what has been created to appear on the outside.
Fans of historic Four Roses would be sure to spot this ornate box decorated with its signature flowers on the pharmacy shelf. This particular bottle was prescribed to a patient in Sparks, Nevada, in 1924. According to the label, two ounces of whiskey were to be mixed with hot water.” (excerpt from the chapter: Prohibition)
Turns out, the iconic labels and packaging that have helped to market the spirit that is so ingrained in American culture and history, have their own story to tell.
Bourbon Falls was the first whiskey sold by Heaven Hill, which started up right after the end of Prohibition. This striking Art Deco label was used in the late 1930s.” (excerpt from the chapter: Life after Temperance)
Rothbaum, clearly a whiskey enthusiast, does a wonderful job as story-teller, historian, and booze archaeologist. He uncovers a rich visual history starting in the late 1800s, going through Prohibition and the Great Depression, into “The Swinging Sixties” and even through the “Dark Ages” – The 70s, 80s and 90s, finally taking us up to the present booze-soaked renaissance we currently seem to be in, “The New Golden Age”.
This 1969 label perfectly encapsulates the progression in liquor packaging design, with a sleek Manhattan cocktail image, gold chain link borders, and modern font, while still paying tribute to the brand’s historic roots.” (excerpt from the chapter: The Swinging Sixties)
In each chapter, Rothbaum includes cocktails of the time, with recipes contributed by legendary bartenders, distillers and spirits writers and historians. The below cocktail, The Scofflaw Cocktail featured in the Prohibition section of The Art of American Whiskey, was contributed by writer, bartender and cocktail legend, Gary (“Gaz”) Regan.
The Scofflaw Cocktail – Contributed by Gary Regan
2 ounces of Bourbon or Straight Rye Whiskey
1 ounce Dry Vermouth
1/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 ounce grenadine
2 few dashes orange bitters
Put all ingredients in a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
A signed copy of The Art of American Whiskey can be yours! With the holidays coming up, this is PERFECT for that special whiskey fan in your life. It’s also a wonderful addition to your own bar library in case you want to keep it all for yourself. You have a bar library, right?! In the comments below, write about your very first experience (that you can remember) with American whiskey and if the bottle design had any influence on your decision to drink said spirit.
All the labels featured here: “Reprinted with permission from The Art of American Whiskey by Noah Rothbaum, copyright 2015. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.”